At what age should we stop getting behind the wheel? Who is responsible for older drivers knowing when the time to stop driving is here? To make matters harder, each state in Australia has different laws and legislation in regards to older drivers.
According to data from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics between 2007 and 2018, road fatalities involving drivers aged 65-75 years have increased 2.3% and involving drivers 75 years and over have increased 1.2%. They are the only age groups where fatalities have increased over the time period. With a rapidly increasing ageing population these are concerning statistics, however, younger drivers are still the most represented age groups in road fatalities overall.
Maximum driving age by state in Australia
As with a lot of laws in Australia the driving age differs state to state. A doctor is only able to stop elderly drivers driving if there is a medical reason present that should stop them driving. In some states, a valid medical certificate is needed to retain your licence, if a doctor deems you not medically sound to drive you won’t adhere to your licence conditions.
State by state breakdown of the laws: click on your state to find out more
In Queensland, drivers over the age of 75 are required to carry a valid medical certificate when they get behind the wheel or they could be fined. The certificate is issued by a doctor, whether or not they have a medical condition, and it must be renewed every 13 months.
In New South Wales drivers from the age of 75 must have an annual medical assessment to retain their licence. From the age of 85, they must pass a practical driving test every second year to keep an unrestricted licence in addition to their annual medical assessment. A modified licence may be issued under certain circumstances.
In Victoria there is no set age where drivers must pass a test or have a medical assessment. The onus is on drivers to decide they’re no longer capable of driving. It is only if they develop a medical condition or disability that they may have to undergo a medical review.
In Western Australia after you turn 80 you are required to undergo an annual medical assessment to renew your driver’s licence. After the age of 85 you may need to pass a practical test if it is recommended by your doctor.
In the ACT drivers aged 75 or more must have an annual medical examination by their doctor.
In South Australia, Drivers aged 75 or older must fill out self-assessment Medical Fitness to Drive forms annually. If a driver answer yes to any of the assessment questions, or are unsure of any of their answers, they should consult their doctor regarding their driving ability.
In Tasmania and the Northern Territory there is no age limit for medical examinations, instead all drivers are legally responsible to report any medical conditions that will affect their ability to drive.
What effects do medications have on driving?
It’s well known that the advancing years can impact our ability to drive – our responsiveness and reflexes begin to slow as our sight and hearing deteriorate. What is less known or discussed is the effect of medications on driving. Older people are more likely to be prescribed or take medication that could have an impact on their driving skills. Blood pressure medications, painkillers and insomnia drugs can all adversely affect our ability to drive.
It is best to speak to your doctor about how these medications, along with age, can impact you on the road. A simple change in drug or awareness of the medication taken could be all it takes to ensure you can continue to drive safely.
Self-limiting older drivers
While older motorists may experience a decline in their responsiveness and sight, they are able to recognise their limitations more easily than younger drivers. Consequently, older drivers tend to get behind the wheel less overall, particularly at night or in bad weather, and they also drive at lower speeds according to research from Monash University’s Accident Research Centre.
As our ageing population continues to grow it's crucial to be aware of the challenges facing older drivers to keep ourselves, our loved ones and the general public, safe on our roads.
Older client campaigning for stricter measures for older drivers
Shine Lawyers represents a 75-year-old client who was involved in a traffic accident that changed his life drastically. Our client was a fit and active gentleman, but is now virtually bed-ridden. He was hit by an 88-year-old car driver whilst he was riding his motorbike. Since the accident he is virtually house bound with ongoing pain.
Our client wants stricter testing for drivers over 75 to prove they're safe to drive. The crash that he was injured in hasn't just cost his lifestyle, he's had to fork out thousands for medical expenses and housing modifications as well. Our client believes that there are not strict enough restrictions on older drivers and their continuation to hold a driver’s licence.
“Quite simply, the present system isn’t working well enough to ensure that lives are not being put at risk by drivers who are not fit to drive. Doctors themselves have called for annual driving and road rule tests with an independent assessor to be introduced and we need to listen to the experts. Our community has the right to expect that anyone who holds a licence and drives on the roads we all share is able to do so safely”.
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Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: February 9, 2021.